Required: Long Test innings at the crease

Source : SIFY
By : Sunil Rajguru
Last Updated: Mon, Aug 04, 2014 10:18 hrs

While everyone knows the people who have scored triple centuries in Tests, there is another little known record that goes a long way in making sure you don’t lose the Test: An individual batsman facing 500 balls in a single innings.

This feat has been achieved a whopping 38 times by batsmen from 8 countries. While there are 10 Test-playing nations, only two countries are absent from that list: India and Bangladesh. 

Legendary English batsmen Len Hutton’s 364 is quite famous, but very few people know that he got it in a record 847 balls, or more than 140 overs!

The last time this feat was achieved was just a few months back in Wellington by Brendon McCullum, who hit 302 off 559 balls against India.

While India has never achieved this feat, it has been achieved against India 8 times.  Of course it’s not that Indians haven’t come close.

Rahul Dravid’s 270 in Rawalpindi in 2004 came off 495 balls.The interesting part of that innings was that while Dravid got 200 in 424 balls, he hit the last 70 runs in 71 balls and got clean bowled while trying to push the run rate.

We won our only series in Pakistan thanks to that knock. Navjot Singh Sidhu was known to be an attacking player. He used to come dancing down the tracks and hit sixes in ODIs and give legendary Aussie spinner Shane Warne nightmares. However he could down the shutters in Tests if he wanted.

Sidhu once hit 201 off 491 balls versus West Indies in Port of Spain in 1997. To play that many balls on a Windies pitch has got be abig achievement. 

Sunil Gavaskar hit a slow 172 off 472 balls against England in Bangalore. VVS Laxman’s legendary 281 versus Australia in 2001 at Eden Gardens took 452 balls.

Among current players Gautam Gambhir hit 137 off 436 balls against New Zealand in Napier in 2009. New Zealand made a commanding 619 in the first innings and our opponents enforced a follow on when we were all down for 305.

Gambhir batted a whopping 643 minutes at the crease as India ended up with 476-4 for a hard fought draw which was important because we had won the first match and hence claimed the series.

Sachin Tendulkar’s 241* in Sydney took 436 balls.  Among current Indian batsmen, here are the longest innings of the following players…

Cheteshwar Pujara (389 balls), Murali Vijay (361 balls), Rohit Sharma (301 balls), Virat Kohli (295 balls), MS Dhoni (265 balls), Shikhar Dhawan (211 balls) and Ajinkya Rahane (158 balls).

There is enough to suggest that this batting line-up could have easily drawn the Southampton Test had they chosen to apply themselves at the crease; however that was not to be. 

The fact that England got 569-7 in the first innings clearly showed that it was a batting pitch if only the batsmen applied themselves. However, the longest that any batsman could stay in the first innings was just 113 balls (Dhoni and Rahane).

Eight of our batsmen got starts but just couldn’t convert…
54, 50, 39, 35, 31, 28, 24, 19.

Had even one of the earlier batsmen managed to play say 250 balls, we could have pushed for a draw quite easily.
The second innings was even worse. India was simply 178 all down.

In fact while Dhawan, Kohli and Dhoni appear to be naturallyaggressive batsmen, maybe they should be allowed to play their natural game. Everyone cannot play the role of blockers and we do require runs in the end and sometimes very quickly. 

One may remember how many times explosive wicket-keeper batsman Adam Gilchrist won matches for Australia.
Three other batsmen,Pujara, Vijay and Rohit, have shown that they have the staying power at the crease. It is unfortunate that Pujara hasn’t got a big score in this series.

Vijay has been a revelation and has played 924 balls in the Test series so far. He is the standout batsman.
Rohit has been the biggest disappointment. In the first innings he just threw his wicket away towards the end of the session to hand over England the advantage. In the second innings, he got out in the very third ball that he faced on the fifth day!

It is too early to tell whether Rahane will be a blocker or a hitter in the long run.
Recently South Africa blocked their way to a draw and the ICC Test No. 1 status in Colombo versus Sri Lanka.

In the second innings they were involved in a war of attrition with the Lankans and scored a gritty fighting 159-8 in 111 overs in the last innings of the match.

The star of the match was newly crowned captain Hashim Amla. In the first innings he hit 139 off 382 balls and in the second innings 25 off 159. That’s 541 balls in the match. 

While it’s great to win matches sometimes just one batsman has to put up his hands to ensure a draw. In overseas Tests post our West Indies win in 2011, 0-8 has just become 1-11.So despite the Lord’s victory, 

India is not out of the woods yet. Not ensuring that batsmen give long innings at the Test creaseon a regular basis has been one of the biggest failures of coach Duncan Fletcher, who has been in charge for 3 years now. 

We have two more Tests left and if we mess up on that, then we would have lost 5 overseas Test series in a row!

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.

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